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50       MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

An old rogue is a man who has seen a lot of life, and who is
materialistic, nonchalant, and sceptical of progress. At its
best, this old roguery gives us mellowness and good temper,
which in old men make many girls prefer them for husbands.
For if life is worth anything, it is that it teaches a lesson of
kindliness. The Chinese people have arrived at this point of
view, not by having found any religious sanction for it, but
from a profound observation and a knowledge of the vicissi-
tudes of life. Typical of this extremely shrewd philosophy is
the following famous dialogue of two poet-monks of the T'ang
Dynasty:

Once Hanshan asked Shihteh: "If one slanders me,
insults me, sneers at me, despises me, injures me, hates
me, and deceives me, what should I do?35 Shihteh replied:
"Only bear with him, yield to him, let him, avoid him,
endure him, respect him, and ignore him. And after a few
years, you just look at him"

In myriad other forms, this spirit of Laotse finds expression
in our literature, poetry and proverbs. Whether the expression
be "By losing that pawn, one wins the whole game," or "Of
all the thirty-six alternatives, running away is the best/5 or
"A true hero never incurs present risk/* or "Taking a step
backwards in your thought/9 this attitude toward life's problems
has permeated the whole fibre of Chinese thought. Life is
then full of second-thoughts and of "the thirty-sixth alter-
natives"; its angularities are smoothed off, and one achieves
that true mellowness which is the mark of Chinese culture.

At its worst, this old roguery, which is the highest product of
Chinese intelligence, works against idealism and action. It
shatters all desire for reform, laughs at the futility of human
effort and renders the Chinese people incapable of idealism
and action. It has a strange way of reducing all human
activities to the level of the alimentary canal and other simple
biologic needs. Mencius was a great rogue when he declared
the chief desires of mankind to be food and women, or aliment-
ation and reproduction. The late President Li Ylianhung was
also a great rogue when he pronounced the heartily accepted